Are Cassette Tapes The New Vinyl?

image from believingthomas.files.wordpress.com "Sure, digital music is convenient, portable and pretty much free for the pilfering, but where's the fun in scrolling through lines of song titles listed alphabetically in the same font on a LCD screen?…A backlash to the über-utilitarian ways of digital music has been underway for years with the rise of vinyl fetishism, but no one saw cassette tapes making a comeback.

… Although cassettes have always been a staple in the trenches of noise and industrial music, the larger indie cannon left them behind until recent years. Cruise by the merch table the next time you go see a touring punk, garage or power-pop band, and you may notice cassettes are competing for space alongside vinyl as the proletariat alternative to CDs…"

"The resurgence in cassette tape sales exists far beyond the world of SoundScan, where barcodes and quarterly sales reports are the bottom line. While commercial sales may be dwindling, those who are buying them are tapping into the cultural experience. They are cheap to make and they're cheap to buy. Usually, for $5 or $6 you get an album's worth of material for the same cost as a 7-inch. And, after all, they are quite nostalgic. For music buyers who aren't old enough to remember them the first time, fast-forwarding and rewinding is a completely new experience. For those who were around, it's like catching up with an old friend."

from Chad Radford in Creative Loafing

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  1. Y’know, I read the first paragraph and instantly thought. “Tapes?? That’s rediculous! They are terrible in so many ways!!”
    Then suddenly it hit me, with instant, free, ubiquitous access to a perfect copy of a song at any time, all of those negatives about tapes go away.
    So what if the tape is totally unlistenable in 10 years. So what if it gets chewed. So what if it melts in the sun in your car?
    You always have a perfect original just a few clicks away to record another tape.
    Ubiquitous digital allows tapes to be fun all over again, since you always have a perfect, generation loss free backup in the cloud.

  2. Old timers like me always loved vinyl and we still do. As for tapes, however, we tolerated them (and CDs) because they were practical and convenient. I don’t see a big comeback for tapes simply because there was never that much love there in the first place… But maybe it is just me. Probably just me.

  3. Tapes are just tangible objects that are cheap to make. There’s not much of a nostalgia factor. It’s more about giving the kids something to buy instead of downloading. They will never make a comeback the say vinyl is/did. They’ll just be around.

  4. This is interesting because I was JUST having a conversation about cassettes the other day with a buddy of mine. We both noted how during the short lived cassette tape era artists really had to make complete albums because it was such a pain in the ass to fast forward through songs that if there was anything bad on the album the entire album would never get listened to.

  5. All my cassettes and old cassette players are going to the church rummage sale- TODAY. I’m done those puppies.

  6. Adam B. Has the right of it; you have to know how to sequence a collection of music to make the cassette format work, unless your audience is too stoned to turn the tape over. I sure hope that perfect copy residing in the cloud isn’t an MP3, cuz modern high-quality Dolby HXPro will kick it’s audio a$$ in terms of fidelity and that goes for vinyl, too, on most commonly available playback systems. You’re giving up convenient random access to the individual tracks, but that’s not always such a bad thing.

  7. Is this from The Onion? Vinyl rules but cassettes? Feh. That said, a good cassette transfer from vinyl sounds better than a CD transfer. (Good meaning on a Nakamichi with metal tape).
    TDK once hired me to travel around the country showing people on local TV shows how to transfer their vinyl to cassette. This was before CD-R.
    I did it on “The Today Show” with Bryant Gumbel in 1990 and extolled the virtues of vinyl at the same time. “Sounds much better than CD” I said. Back then people thought that was nuts
    Now everyone knows vinyl sounds better than CD.

  8. I collect vintage cassettes. I buy new indie cassettes. I have released indie cassettes. All you Negative Nancys need to lighten up. Get out of the basement, get off the internet, go see a show. Remember a time when music was fun. Geez.

  9. Although the word ‘cassette’ may be synonymous with ‘cheap’ for those of us who grew up during the time when CDs were fairly new (and had to buy tapes because we couldn’t afford the same album on CD), the fact of the matter is that it isn’t 1990 anymore. With even CDs becoming somewhat passe these days, the price of CDs more accurately reflects the cost of producing them. And the truth is that it is ALOT cheaper for your average garage band to put out an album on CD than cassette. At my local Target, I found a spindle of 50 CD-Rs for $17. A 50 pack of slim jewel cases costs around $13. This adds up to $30, or about 60 cents for a blank CD and jewel case. Just next to all the CDs and DVDs, I noticed some cheap, Sony 90 minute Type I cassettes. They cost $8 for 8, or $1.00 per tape. That’s almost TWICE AS MUCH for a cassette (with case) as for a CD and jewel box. Granted, you can probably get both tapes and CDs ALOT cheaper if you buy in bulk. But I can’t imagine cassettes suddenly having a price advantage if you buy them at Costco. The fact of the matter is that cassettes are a whole lot more complicated than CDs, and cost more accordingly.
    Of course, there are other factors to consider here that mere price of cassettes vs CDs doesn’t take into account. First of all, CDs are a heck of alot easier and faster to make. You can literally make a CD in about a tenth of the time of a cassette using a typical PC. Cassette dubbing decks can decrease the time required to make cassettes, but at the expense of quality on an already low-fi medium. Furthermore, if a garage/indie band decides to sell their music ONLY in cassette, they are alienating ALOT of people. These days, a cassette deck is no longer a household staple. Most poeople simply can’t play cassettes anymore for this reason, and are unwilling to make the investment in a new deck OR deal with a used one which could conk out at any time. On the other hand, virtually every PC out there (except netbooks) has a CD drive. So CD is a MUCH more universal format. In the end, it is CDs that are MUCH more of a ‘proletariat alternative’ to cassettes than vice versa.

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